John Vonderlin: 1901: The Sculptress Sybil Easterday

Story by John Vonderlin

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From The San Francisco Call

January 27, 1901
The girl sculptress of San Francisco
lives in her little studio, five flights
up, in the tiptop of an old building
on Montgomery street. When the
first rays of sunshine, arrive through the
quaint little round skylights in the roof
to make a light for her, she begins her
work and she does not finish until the
sunshine departs by the way it came,
leaving her alone in the dusk.
Once there was a little girl down on a
farm near Niles. Her name was Sybil
Easterday, and she was very fond of play
ing in the mud.
But It was not mud pies she made. It
was the same sort of things that she
wrought out of the putty, which she
scraped from the edges of the window
panes, and the same sort of things that
her mother found the butter patties made
into on the pantry shelves. In short,
Sybil Easterday was a sculptress in em-
bryo, and it was genius that was trying
to work its way out through the mud and
putty and butter.
When she grew up there was an in-
teresting collection of crude wood carv-
ing in her room at the Easterday farm
house and there was no peace on the
whole  farm until she had gained her
parents’ consent to come to San Francisco
for a course of art instruction.
She came and the Hopkins Art Institute
found in her one of its cleverest pupils.
On the farm she had dabbled, too, in
painting, and from under her paint brush
there sprung yellow haystacks and gray
oaks with such crude naturalness and
realistic effect as to make plodding Illus-
trators stare and arouse the interest of
the instructors. But for her painting she
did not care, so much; her passion was
sculpture, and she plunged into clay
modeling and its accompanying studies
of anatomy with a determination born of
a great love for her work.
She made .progress. Such  astonishing
progress, that those of ordinary clever-
ness stopped to make note and congratu-
late. As soon as she had mastered suf-
ficient technique to work independently,
she took her studio and shut herself up
with her work, and while the sun shone
no one was admitted. Earnestness and
ambition kept her within her four walls,
and the little art world of San Francisco
had almost forgotten her, until it found
her work prominently placed in  the In-
stitute of Art exhibitions.
Since then she has been an acknowl-
edged factor of importance in San Fran-
cisco art circles, her study figures have
appeared at all the principal art exhibi-
tions and have been given prominent
The girl sculptress is independent as
well in ideas and the execution of them
as in bread-winning. When the first bar-
rel of plaster for casts was brought into
her studio and the white powder left a
little trail along the floor; when her tub
of wet clay tipped over and she found her
hands and face and her skirts all covered
with the sticky substance, then Miss
Easterday had one of her independent
ideas and she proceeded to put it into ex-
ecution. The next day when the baker
boy called the door was opened for him
by a young person in a light flannel shirt
and white duck trousers. The young per-
son had a sculptor’s knife and a little
wad of clay in one hand and the other
was held out with wide-stretched fingers,
fresh from the tub mixture. But what
made the baker-boy stare was the young
person’s head. It was a. mass of fluffy
red-brown hair, bound up loosely with a
band of black velvet and shading the seri-
ous face and earnest blue eyes of the girl
Since first adopted it Miss Easter-
day has worn the practical attire at her
Miss Easterday’s visitors and the baker
boy have long since become accustomed to
her practical eccentricity and the girl
sculptress herself has become so appre-
ciative of its comforts that it is with a
sigh she dons her street attire, which she
never does until the moment of her going
out.  .
Many are the comments of the little Bo-
hemian circle of artists anent the girl
sculptress. They say she is strange, and
odd, and queer, but they unanimously
agree that she is clever and independent
and that she is earnest and ambitious.
She herself is indifferent to all com-
ment. Her world is her studio and her
art. Her life motto is work. She has al-
ready met with unusual local success and
it is safe to predict that some day she
will be heard of beyond the limits of the